Va. student who named Mars rover excited for mission broadcast

This illustration provided by NASA shows the Perseverance rover, bottom, landing on Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Feb. 18, 2021. Entry, Descent, and Landing, or "EDL," begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere, traveling nearly 12,500 mph (20,000 kph). EDL ends about seven minutes after atmospheric entry, with Perseverance stationary on the Martian surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)
A Virginia middle-schooler has a special reason to celebrate when NASA’s next rover lands on Mars on Thursday.

In between online middle school classes, 14-year-old Alex Mather will be paying close attention to NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, because he named it.

“I’m definitely going to watch the entirety of that, and then probably just stay glued to the TV watching the press conferences after,” Mather said.

The eighth-grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County won the NASA “Name the Rover” essay contest last year out of 28,000 students who entered nationwide.

“Perseverance is what allows us to keep on pushing through all these tragedies that happen as we try and push the limits of what we can do,” Mather said. “I tried to write it up in my essay, how this name is a story about the human race.”

The NASA broadcast starts at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday.

Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges reviewed submissions to help narrow the pool down to 155 semifinalists for the contest.

Once that group was narrowed down to nine finalists, the public had five days to weigh in on their favorites, logging more than 770,000 votes online, with the results submitted to NASA for consideration.

Mather said he first became interested in space when his parents sent him to space camp about four years ago.

His goal is to go to a science and technology high school and one day work at NASA on future missions.

“I’m excited. I’m curious,” Alex said. “I’m at a loss for words already. And we’re not even there yet.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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